Health Services Struggle Amid Looting, Violence in South Africa

Widespread looting and unrest in KwaZuku-Natal (KZN) has hit crucial health services hard, writes Nokulunga Majola for GroundUp. Clinics were closed in eThekwini and many ambulance services in KZN were grounded while the Covid-19 vaccination program has all but stopped, according to Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane.

"There are scores of people in our hospitals who are fighting for their lives, who need to be attended to by our doctors and nurses as a matter of urgency. Some are in critical condition, in ICU, while others are in labour and need to go into theatre ... Those who are protesting need to realise that by blocking health workers or ambulances from doing their job, they could be placing the lives of their own relatives in jeopardy," Simelane said.

Similarly, the Gauteng Provincial Government said Covid-19 vaccination sites in areas affected by the sporadic acts of violence and lawlessness had to be temporarily closed due to safety concerns by both the staff and members of the public. "As Gauteng and the country are still in the midst of a deadly pandemic, the provincial government remains concerned at the potential spread of Covid-19 during such super-spreader events. Hospital admissions continue to increase and are placing a heavy strain on the healthcare system in both public and private sectors," a statement read.

This came ahead of a media release from the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) which confirmed that it had intensified deployments in all the affected areas in KZN and Gauteng to assis the South African Police Service in containing the unrest. President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed the arrests of 489 suspects and at least six deaths during a national address regarding the violence.

Looting and lawbreaking that started in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province after the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma spilled over into Gauteng province. The Daily Maverick's Julia Evans reported that protests in Gauteng, ostensibly against Zuma's imprisonment, escalated into criminality, where civilians damaged property and roads, looted businesses and rioted, affecting public transport and power services. 



Children stand at the door of a looted shop in Alexandra, Johannesburg.

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